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Guest Speaker: Melita Thomas

You have the best children’s minister!  She is fabulous.  I’m glad to be here this morning in these interesting circumstances.  It’s a pleasure to be here where I grew up.  So many of you have been a part of my story.  You were my first teachers and friends.  You taught me what church is supposed to be like.  It’s been twenty four years.  Today I walked around the facility to see what’s changed.  I know the legacy of this church is the same.  While we are not under one roof this morning we gather in One Name.  I want to open this morning with a strange verse:

Genesis 33:14  “Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir."

Jacob and Esau were brothers and spent their lives at odds with one another.  Jacob swindled his father to steal his brother’s birthright.  We see a pic of reconciliation as Jacob asks for forgiveness and Esau forgives.  As they move together to a new place Jacob uses an interesting word.  He says he will lead but slowly, at the pace of children.  When I read this it jumped off the page at me.  I create resources that target the developmental stages of children.  I create thing for churches, teachers and children. 

I was going to share a pic of my family but I know you won’t be able to see it at home.  My parents were in town over a holiday in Nashville and we decided to take a family photo on the pedestrian bridge that overlooks the entire city of Nashville.  Who do you think were the first people up the hill?  We adults actually surpassed the children because the kids were racing up and then they’d stop to look at the river.  They’d throw rocks in the river and climbed on top of things and jumped off.  We eventually noticed the children were behind us.  We slowed down so they could catch up.  It’s OK for us to stop and observe a lady bug.  We parents are used to this kind of pace, but so often our churches hurry us through childhood.  They want us to hurry up and be the next generation but children are the church of today.

We all have a role to play in the spiritual development of other people.  Scripture says there’s a time for every matter under Heaven.  There are times when people are more open to the Gospel.  The “4-14 window” is when a child is developing and forming their worldview.  Children are more moldable at these ages.  This is a season of life when people are most impressionable.  George Barna suggests a person’s worldview, their moral foundation, is set by the age of nine.  This is crazy important!  By the age of thirteen a child believes everything he needs to know about life, Heaven, Hell, etc…  This window is of critical importance.   The church needs to focus on the spiritual development of children.  We need to target our teaching of children to their developmental abilities.  I know this church does this.  You still have teachers who taught me as a child and they’re still teaching children.  I teach people how to teach children and I know I can’t teach you a thing!  What a gift to children!  If those of you who taught me and encouraged me were here in this room I’d recognize you right now.  Thank you for teaching me and the children of this church.  I know even your babies are learning.  Those who teach babies are giving them a spiritual foundation.  Babies are greeted with a smiling face who sings Jesus Loves Me to them.  This isn’t just childcare.  A foundation is being laid.  What’s being taught each year here in a child’s life is being built upon.  Church, thank you for doing an amazing job. 

My pastor, Frank Lewis, at First Baptist Nashville, when he baptizes a child asks for people who have been a part of the child’s life and spiritual journey to stand.  If they have been the child’s teacher, R.A. leader, or encourager they are recognized.  Let me ask you, church, What’s your role in the spiritual journey of a child?  You might be thinking you should sign up to teach?  Maybe you can be an encourager to a child?  A mentor?  A friend?  Reality is that we are all teachers.  Children are learning about priorities, attitudes and why we want to be together.  We are all teachers.  I challenge you to think about our purpose.  Everything you say and don’t say, do or don’t do is teaching children. 

Parents:  What’s your role?  There’s a fad or a trend that’s widening the gap between a person’s faith and the faith that’s passed on.  This trend is to be spiritual but not religious.  There’s a disconnect.  This urges parents to allow children to grow up and find things out for themselves.  In the Shema, to parents, we are commanded to pass our faith in a way that is caught and taught at the pace of our children.  While you live, as you take time on the journey, all day long take the opportunity to embrace teachable moments.

For example, two years ago my whole family went to Topsail and we stayed in a house that had its own pool at the beach.  My nephews were four and two.  Jacob, four, was sitting at the edge of the pool and wanted something that was floating in the middle of the pool.  Jacob said he wished he could walk out there and get it.  His father said, Jake, did you know there’s only one person who was able to walk on water?  Yes!  Michael Jackson, Jake declared!    We told Jake the story of Jesus walking on water, how they thought Jesus was a ghost and how Peter walked towards Jesus and started to sink and Jesus rescued him.  When we tell a child a good story they want us to tell it again and again.  After we told the story several times they wanted to act out the story in the pool.  At the height of the storm Jacob would shout that he sees a ghost and we’d all scream!  Then he’s say, “No!  It’s Jesus!”  We’d all cheer and he’d try to walk on water and he’d hold his nose and throw up his arm straight in the air as he sank like Peter.  As soon as he went down his arm was up.  Jake had discovered Jesus is a rescuer.  It’s so important to teach our children who Jesus is.  Jake is a four year old who learned that Jesus cares about him; Jesus is a rescuer.  Jesus loves us.  Jesus grabs us by the arm, picks us up, helps us back into the boat and says, “Peace, be still.”  It’s all over. 

I know you’ve encountered storms in your life.  When you give your kids a heart and a security in Jesus they have a foundation that can withstand life’s nastiest storms.  Then they can understand faith, grow and make it on their own.  Parents, you don’t have to do this on your own.  There are people to help you right here at First Baptist Church of Asheboro.  Kids, I’m not leaving you out.  I’m asking you, what is your role in the spiritual journey?  You have a job too. 

I’m going to tell you a true story, but it’s not from the Bible.  This story happened before I was born.  It happened in 1976 during the Special Olympics.  The runners were all lined up.  They had trained and they all wanted to be first across the finish line.  The race started and they all took off running.  One runner fell and couldn’t get up.  A few runners saw the fall and they slowed down, turned around and helped the runner up.  They all locked arms and ran together across the finish line.  Being a helper is good, but Jesus wants everyone to know Him.  That’s the gold metal: knowing Jesus.  Lots of people don’t know Jesus.  If you already know Jesus you’re way ahead of others.  God wants us to slow down and pay attention to those around us.  God wants to come alongside them.  We can all be a part of helping someone know Jesus.  Boys and girls, you can do that now.  Church, as you work in this community share about our God who loves.  We all have a light to share and shine.

Words from Pastor Scotty:  In the next few weeks it will be easy to feel isolated.  The next few weeks will be different for all of us as all activities here at First Baptist will be canceled.  We are respecting our government leaders and we are thankful they care about our state and nation.  We will not respond in fear.  We also want all of us to be praying, “God, what do you want me to do?”  Our staff will be praying this too and we will give you some ideas.  How can we make a difference with our neighbors? 

Our worship service next Sunday will be online at 10am.  We hope you join us live on our church YouTube channel.  You can find us by searching, "First Baptist Asheboro" on YouTube.  It’s a wonderful experience to know there are hundreds of us worshiping together, gathered with you online.  We’ll keep you updated.  May God richly bless our children.  We are thankful for you. 

Sermon notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.

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